• After It Rains
• I'm Jesse
      • My Birthday?
      • You Remembered!
• Pool? Animal Style!
      • Dumplings w/Neptune
• Sicilian Sculptor
• The Golden Years
• Human Hangers
• Just a Barista
• I Need to Dance
• Can't Stop Looking Up
• Be Careful What...
• The Collection
• Into the Light
• A Perfect Interview
• The Abbey
• Who You Know?
• What's This Life For?
• Unexpected Talent
• Just a Dog's Day
• Chester
• Darren
      • Darren and the Circus
• Voice of God
• Aaron
• 5350

• Resurrection
• Private Dancer
• Eye Contact
• Bullying
• The Surreality of It All
• Sound of Silence
• 31 Days of Christmas
• Giant!
• Fear or Comfort?
• You're Different
• Another One Bites...
• Stroll with the Clouds
• Walking with Banshee

Voice of God (03/06/20)

When The Center was originally designed, we reveled in the fact that one of the local commuter trains was more than happy to build a station within walking distance of the facility.

This station not only allowed surrounding communities to have easier access to The Center, but also connected the local airport, taking under 10 minutes to arrive from the departure terminal to The Center station. This dramatically increased our exposure and ease of access for tourists and business connections.

My commute was under 10 minutes from The Center via train, since I lived equdistant from the airport to The Center. I stepped off the train and made my short walk to the back entrance of The Center, walking up the flight of stairs to the administrative offices, put my backpack down on my desk, and strode back down to the service entrance to into the primary hall of the facility.

In order to ensure that visitors had a new and exciting, yet uninterrupted visit to The Center, all work on exhibits was conducted over night, beginning immediately after closing and completed well before public access was opened—and we opened early, opening at 7 am daily.

As I stepped through the door to the primary service area, I went to my designated Segway, turned it on, and booted the tablet attached to its handles. Due to the vast size of the art center, we conducted our reviews of all the installations and exhibits via Segway, and the sight of the line of 24 of them in the service entrance always gave me a feeling of excitement.

After greeting all my staff, asking about evening baseball games, swim meets and other general family life, our management team joined me in mounting their Segways, logging into their tablets and off we went—a long motorcade of electric two-wheeled transportation devices off and running.

Once inside The Center each of the groups of the management team verified the work from the night before was complete, accurate and ready for public viewing, checked a myriad of processes off their appropriate lists, and cruised over to the next section.

Not only due to the shear size of The Center, but also to our pledge to entertain The Center visitors and show as much emerging art as possible, the exhibits and displays rotated out on a regular basis, so ensuring these rotations was a mandatory daily task—and an extremely enjoyable one.

As our group neared the middle of The Center, we came up to the vast performance hall designed specifically for audio/visual performances, and educational demonstrations. It’s designed in the shape of a giant inverted cone, with its’ stage ‘in-the-round,’ surrounded by seating that spiraled up through the entire height of the facility.

Topping this inverted vast cone is a 360 degree ring of clerestory glass windows that not only allow for unobstructed viewing from the rooftop seating that surrounds it, but also allows for specially designed acoustics that guarantee what is heard inside the performance space is equal in quality to what is heard from the rooftop terrace.

We all parked our Segways in a cluster around one of the entrances to the arena, and were informed that the volunteer members of the regional orchestras were rehearsing for several upcoming evening performances. Even though it was early in the morning, these dedicated professionals were already fired up for their rehearsal session.

What made the upcoming performances special, and had resulted in a very quick ticket 'sell out' for opening night, was the artist who had created all the instruments. Classical music was the selection for the evening, and full orchestration was represented, but every instrument in this new orchestra was hand-made and created by an artist who specifically created instruments from scrap metal recycled from vehicles doomed for the scrap yard.

Antonio Bianchi, "TonyB," specialized in rummaging through car salvage yards and plane graveyards to select the perfect pieces of metal to be cut, bent, welded and polished into works of art in their own rights.

One of The Center exhibits was a section of these instruments on display as singular pieces of art that regularly draw throngs of crowds in awe at the beauty of each of the pieces. Any of these pieces would, and frequently did, adorn a wall mounted as an object of art—but they were also intended to be played as a representative piece of a band or orchestra.

The Center regularly holds true 'instrumental' orchestral performances, and staff are accustomed to seeing and hearing the various instrumental pieces that form the core of an orchestra or band, but these custom pieces always amazed those of us who saw them.

Back to the design of The Center. Because the performance hall was built in the middle of the facility, surrounded by The Center’s adjustable system of modular exhibit spaces, the performance hall had been designed with stellar acoustics inside, but even under the loudest of performances, could not be heard within the art exhibit areas that surrounded it—even with multitudes of attendees entering from its various entry points. A double-door system of entry dampened the sound so that the exhibit areas remained in silence during performances.

Our Director of Events stopped us before entering the arena, and said that he had never heard such incredible sounds coming from musical instruments. In all his years of experience, listening to some of the most famous orchestras on the planet, who utilized some of the most valuable and finely created instruments on the planet, he said none of that compared to what we were about to hear coming from these artistically designed salvage pieces.

Not wanting to be skeptical and really just trying to grasp what we were about to hear, I asked exactly what made the sounds coming from these instruments unique? Our director had no true response, simply saying they had to be heard to understand.

We entered into the first course of doors—silence. As we opened the second course and began to hear the rehearsal session in full, jaw-dropping awe overtook all of us, and we stood in wonder gazing down onto the hall’s circular stage.

It was true—the sounds coming from the orchestra were beyond anything any of us had heard before. An ethereal, other-worldly music came from the arena. We recognized the piece of music itself, but the artistic translation of the piece was beyond comprehension as it was being played on these custom instrumental pieces of art. Our management team stood there almost paralyzed for several minutes until the orchestra stopped for a quick break.

We continued to just stand there, not quite sure what we had just heard. I brushed away a few tears trying not to be noticed by the others in the group, only to realize nearly all the team also had tears streaming down their faces.

Finally one of the team asked in a quiet, reverent voice “What was that?”

Another one of the team muttered in an awestruck tone, tears streaming down his face, “that was Mozart’s Overture from The Marriage of Figaro… but apparently performed by the voice of God.”

The 'voice of God' was a frequent phrase we heard from the eccentric artist who had designed and built all of the instruments that were part of the performance. He said his inspiration was straight from God, and that each instrument was finally tuned by the hand of God, personally.

We all stood there for quite a few minutes still unsure what we had just experienced, and anticipating what could possibly be next. As I noticed the conductor mounting the rostrum to begin another piece, I laughed out loud, but caught quickly caught myself. "Is he is shorts, tshirt and sandals?" I asked one of my team. She just looked back at me with a smile shaking her heard 'yes.'

It was 7 in the morning, I guess it really didn't matter. Just not what I expected from an orchestra conductor.

Need to make a quick technical point about the rostrum and the stage that surrounds it. This particular configuration was created so that the entire full orchestra was in the round, with the conductor on a circular rostrum in the center. And both the stage and the rostrum ‘rotate’ during a performance, so that all members of the orchestra at some point have a full-on view of the conductor, and that all of the audience, at some point have a full-on view of not only the orchestra itself, but also of the conductor.

The mechanisms for this particular configuration are so finely tuned that the movement is nearly unseen, other than as a member of the audience you realize at frequent intervals that your view of the entire experience has changed—over and over again.

The space had also been designed to have the optimum acoustics, without the need for electronic amplification, and contained a lighting system that was second to none. Any seat in the house had a perfect visual and auditory experience.

Then it began, this time the ever so familiar sounds of what were normally a snare drum, cello and flute—the beginning strains of Ravel’s Bolero. Ethereal was not even the correct word for the sounds from the instrumentation—from experience, we knew what instruments should have been playing for each repetitive part, but the salvaged art instruments were being used to interpret the sounds in ways our ears were not accustomed to, sending shivers down our spines.

And as what were representative of clarinet, bassoon, oboe d’amore, and horns each added into the parts, a state of trance was set in place. And what had been goose bumps and shivers became gut-wrenching emotional spasms from those of us watching and listening to this otherworldly composition.

After nearly 17 minutes of tear jerking musical movements, the full orchestra, which consisted entirely of customized art pieces that in many instances didn’t even come close to the look or sound of its representative traditional musical piece, crescendoed to the final part.

What were supposed to be cymbals and tam-tam ripped through our souls as reflections from the spot-lights hitting them created moving pieces of performance art through the walls of the arena, adding more to the mystical feeling as the final dissonant D♭ chord switched to the C major chord. Then all was silent.

Not knowing whether to applaud, or break down in tears, we just stood there speechless.


Opening night was upon us, we had a sold-out full-house, and had been told that the lighting technicians had also gone out of their way to ensure that not only the audio portion of the performance would be spectacular, but that the visual portion would accompany and blend with the auditory.

As I walked into the chamber, I noticed that hanging beautifully at each of the four cardinal directions were these astounding 'tapestry' like banners, shimmering red fabric with black geometric and organic patterns overlaid with stunningly beautiful gold printed characters. The characters were not of a language I recognized, but as I watched the banners slightly waving and reflecting light, whether I could translate what they said or not was insignificant, the beauty of the banners themselves was mesmerizing.

I asked one of my staging staff where the banners had come from. He looked at them, sheepishly looked back at me, and said he had no idea where they came from nor when they had been put up. They were not there earlier in the day. I was going to question how he could not have noticed that detail, but the beauty of the banners drew my attention back to them, and since they looked so magnificent in the space, I just kept quiet and moved on.

Though the staff were enthusiastic, we were not sure what to expect from the audience. Would they become as emotionally involved in the performance as the management team had been?

We had gone back and forth on the order of the pieces that would be performed, and had landed on the thought that we might as well wow the crowd from the first piece—really let them know what they were in store for, so had decided that Ravel’s Bolero would open the show.

I watched the attendees enter, take their seats, most of them pointing to the banners hanging from the ceiling, with those new to the experience marveling at the design of the chamber. The room filled to capacity, the orchestra entered and took their seats, and an audible clatter arose as the audience got a glimpse of the instruments that would be used for the night's performance.

The conductor entered the chamber, took his spot on the rostrum, now appropriately dressed for the night, and the crowd went silent. The auditorium went completely dark for a few seconds, then one narrow, single beam of light illuminated the conductor.

As the opening number began, the lighting was definitely in tune to the music, each part of Bolero not only grasped the audience by the ears, but the lighting effects were keeping the attention of all in the arena. One snare drum, one spot. Entire orchestra, blinding streams of endless spot lights, and vibrant beams of light radiating off reflections from all the instruments. It was not only a sound to be heard, but a sight to behold.

Bolero ended, all went black...then complete silence.

After what felt like an eternity, the entire audience stood and erupted in applause—screams and shouts louder than the finale of Bolero itself. The standing ovation lasted over 5 minutes, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house—and this was only the opening piece of a slated 90 minute performance.

The rest of the show was equally exhilarating and was more of an emotional experience than an orchestral performance. At the end of the show, the applause for an encore seemed like it would never end. And the feeling from the audience was tangible, they wanted more.

I had noticed during the performance that multiple times that a beam of light would bounce off an instrument and reflect off the radiant materials and designs of the four banners hanging in the chamber. Though one might thing that to be distracting, it was far from it. The reflection off the material seemed to be in sync with the music and became a part of the show.

I thought for a second I needed to find out who had put those banners up.

The next morning, we noticed all remaining performances were sold-out—the event had gone viral, and the email and phone messages asking about additional performances were endless. After some serious negotiations with the orchestra, another 4 nights of sold-out performances were added, and sold-out as soon as they were listed.

On the opening night, as the audience had been leaving The Center after the performance, I overheard a lady on her phone explaining she had ‘just heard the voice of God.’ Seemed that was the common sentiment.

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